Lava Church

We made it to the outskirts of Volcan Paricutin in the mountains of northern Michocan. We camped in the small town of Angahuan. The people there are Purepetcha and speak a different language. The women wear wonderful jeweled colored satin-like blouses, and full pleated skirts. They look as if they are dressed up for an event, but they are doing their daily chores, cooking, carrying water down the street, usually with a kid strapped on for the ride. They wear their hair in long braids. Their clothes were so beautiful I wanted to get some, but this isn’t the type of place that has retail stores. These were all handmade clothes and I didn’t even get a picture. I was too embarrased to ask – besides, it’s better to just admire then put a camera in someone’s face.

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The men all have horses and want to rent them for the trek to the steeple or volcano. They easily rode alongside the bus and tried to make a deal while we were driving through town. The volcano was 8 hours by horse and seemed a bit too ambitious with the kids. We were there to hike to the church anyway.

It was already late in the day, so we decided to do an evening hike and get to the church at sunset (we’ve hiked in a lava field in the blazing sun before and it wasn’t the most fun.) The hike was only about an hour and mostly downhill, so we made it just at sunset.

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In 1943 the volcano started rumbling and within a few weeks there were explosions and smoke fuming out. Six months later lava was oozing, slow enough for people to escape. It flowed 10 feet deep and buried the forest and 3 villages. The fires finally went out in 1952. In the 100,000 acres of volcanic ash, the only remaining building is the church. The lava flowed right up to the alter. It’s really something amazing to see.

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After scrambling over the remains of the church we had a quick snack and headed back. The kids did fantastic on the walk home, considering it was dark and uphill. The sun set on one side of us, the full moon rising on the other. Hundreds of bats were flying over our heads with the steeple of the volcanic rock covered church still visible behind us. It’s one of those evenings I will never forget.

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4 thoughts on “Lava Church

  • May 7, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    A question: Did you observe any celebration or recognition of Cinco de Mayo? I live in a neighborhood (in Redwood City, CA) with a majority population of expatriotes from Michoacan. My neighbors do not celebrate or observe Cinco de Mayo. Is it a commercial “holiday” in the US and resorts in Mexico to generate money?

  • May 8, 2010 at 6:23 AM

    Hey Guys, glad to hear you are still on the move and all is well. Whenever I get a spare moment (which is not too often as we have a 1 year old son, Gus!) I log on and see where you are at. I have gone back and started reading your posts from the start, as we are about to go to the US and will be travelling from San Fran up to Portland, Seattle etc. You guys are living my dream! We have done extensive travel through Europe and the US, but it has always been constrained by time due to employment somewhere! Wish I had the balls to do what you guys have done! Take care.

  • May 8, 2010 at 7:26 PM


    Virtually none. There were a fair number of campers on the beach (a holiday indicator) and they all had the Monday off from work. That was about as far as the holiday revelry went. The only celebrating was the normal walking around the beach with a bottle of tequila and 2-liter Coke (!) It’s a non-event. By far, the November 20 Commemoration of the Mexican Revolution and Mexico’s Independence Day – September 16 are the biggies.

  • May 8, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Hi Angela – just wanted to wish u a Happy Mother’s Day!
    Feliz Dia de las Madres! (?)

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